09/19/06 — Officials meet to talk about plans for U.S.70

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Officials meet to talk about plans for U.S.70

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on September 19, 2006 1:55 PM

The Goldsboro City Council and the Wayne County Board of Commissioners met Monday afternoon in the hopes that both bodies will approve an access management plan to protect the existing and future corridors of U.S. 70.

Representatives from Kimley-Horn, a consulting firm hired by the U.S. 70 Corridor Commission to study ways to improve the existing U.S. 70 bypass and the best way to build a U.S. 70 freeway from Clayton to Morehead City, presented Wayne County's portion of the highway access management plan.

"We look to protect the corridor that is instrumentally vital to the three million people it serves," Kimley-Horn representative Mike Rutkowski said.

The U.S. 70 Corridor Commission, which includes officials from Wayne, Lenoir, Jones, Craven and Carteret counties, has been working over the past several months to develop a plan for the future U.S. 70 bypass. The group's goal is to build a 70-mph freeway from Raleigh to the coast.

The 140-mile project would cost about $1.2 billion to build, engineers say. County Commissioner Jack Best said the state Department of Transportation won't come up with the entire amount for the corridor at one time. The corridor commission could ask for $15- $20 million per year to build the highway in sections and to make safety improvements along the existing corridor, he said.

By adopting the access management plan, Rutkowski said, the city and county governments could protect both corridors from the addition of more traffic lights while at the same time, making improvements to the existing road through Wayne.

Kimley-Horn representative Todd Delk said there are many possible solutions to the access and safety problems on the highway. The entire stretch of highway has 264 median crossings, he said. About 40 percent of the accidents on the highway are rear-end accidents, which mostly occur near the median crossings, Rutkowski said.

At high-risk or heavy-traffic median crossings, Delk said, directional crossovers could be constructed. Such crossovers control which way drivers can turn at an intersection.

For example, if an eastbound driver on the four-lane reaches a major intersection, that driver could turn left off of the four-lane onto a side road. But a driver coming from the side road could not turn left onto the four-lane. A barrier would force the driver to turn right until he or she reaches a left-turn lane where they could make a U-turn.

Delk said the directional crossover would reduce the chances of an accident since the most dangerous move for any vehicle is a left turn onto the four-lane. Such a crossover already exists at the intersection of Piney Grove Church Road and U.S. 70 east. One has been proposed for the intersection of Beston Road and U.S. 70 east.

Directional crossovers cost between $200,000 and $300,000 to build, he said.

Another option is to coordinate traffic lights to reduce the slowing of traffic, the consultants said.

Once both boards have adopted the access management plan, Rutkowski said council members and the commissioners could sign a memorandum of understanding which would further protect both parties' interests along U.S. 70, allow both government bodies to approach the state Department of Transportation for funding and begin making improvements along the existing corridor.

The county commissioners previously approved the concept of an access management plan. County Manager Lee Smith said the board of commissioners would consider full approval at today's commissioners' meeting. City officials didn't specify when the City Council would take up the issue.